It’s July already. The novelty of summer vacation has worn off and yet, there are still two full months of it left. Depending upon when your child’s school year ended, you may have already lost three weeks of their academic progress thanks to the “summer brain drain,” and your child may have already become bored with summer. One way to combat summer vacation academic slippage is make sure that reading is an active part of your child’s summer vacation.
The Library of Michigan’s Collaborative Summer Library Program, “Dig into Reading” is one avenue and many Michigan public libraries participate in it. Open to youth of all ages, the program has various incentives –based upon numbers of books read or hours of reading time—to encourage children to read and be read to by the adults or older children in their lives. Preschoolers can get reading credits for listening to stories, whereas children who are already reading can receive credits for both reading and listening. For example, if you have a range of children in your household, when an older child reads to the younger child, both children can include that reading experience on their Dig into Reading summer reading logs.
Even if your local library’s Dig into Reading summer program has begun (some started in June), you may still be able to sign your child up to participate, as most programs end during the month of August. Many libraries include additional reading incentives such as participating in an on-site program or reading books about certain topics. If you cannot access your local library for the Dig into Reading summer reading program, Barnes and Noble also has a summer reading program designed just for kids. Their “Imagination’s Destination” program offers a free book, summer reading kit and more to help get kids reading from pre-kindergarten through grade six.
Including daily reading as part of your child’s summer vacation routine is critical for academic success and beyond. According to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), “[t]he fact that nearly one-third of American teenagers drop out of school is deeply connected to declining literacy and reading comprehension. With lower levels of reading and writing ability, people do less well in the job market. Poor reading skills correlate heavily with lack of employment, lower wages, and fewer opportunities for advancement… . [Further,] the habit of daily reading overwhelmingly correlates with better reading skills and higher academic achievement. On the other hand, poor reading skills correlate with lower levels of financial and job success…. Regular reading not only boosts the likelihood of an individual’s academic and economic success—facts that are not especially surprising—but it also seems to awaken a person’s social and civic sense. Reading correlates with almost every measurement of positive personal and social behavior surveyed.” (Source: Raising Bookworms.)
And during summer vacation, “low-income students lose more than two months of reading achievement (Cooper, 1996)” according to Reading Is Fundamental’s (RIF) literacy statistics. Participating in Dig into Reading or other summer reading programs will not only help your child stay on track, it will make the start of the upcoming school year (only two short months away) go much more smoothly—for students, parents and teachers—as you’ll avoid becoming a casualty of the summer brain drain.
Does it matter what you read? Not necessarily. Aiming to get your child to read texts that are at or just above grade level is a great way to reinforce what was learned in the previous school year, but the best way to engage a young reader is to let them gravitate to the things they love most. It doesn’t matter if it’s a comic book, a traditional book, magazine, newspaper or book on an e-reader or tablet—the point is to get your child reading, and hopefully comprehending what they are reading. You can also use reading as a launching pad for other brain-stimulating activities–maybe draw a picture or make a craft inspired by what they read, expanding their vocabulary, writing, learning more about a topic or visiting a place they read about either in reality or online.
If your kid is glued to his or her Nintendo DS, seek books about designing computer games or that have a similar genre to the games that your child does enjoy playing. If your child would rather sit in front of the television or watch videos, there are many books that are either based on popular children’s television shows (like Dora the Explorer) or that the shows they love may be based upon (like Max and Ruby or Olivia). You can use your child’s current “love du jour” as a way to spark his or her reading flame. But don’t stop there—make sure that you too, are also seen reading—and not just Facebook posts or email on your smart phone. When kids see the adults around them reading, they know that reading is for everyone, at all times, not just for school or homework—that it’s an important part of life. So, unplug and make summer reading a part of your summer schedule. It’s just one good way to fend off the summer brain drain.